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Tag Archives: Jane Eyre

Two_women_are_arguing_in_the_street_watched_by_a_crowd._Etch_Wellcome_V0040755How better to start 2016 at Risky Regencies than with a cat fight? Not a real one, of course, but a literary one pitting Jane Austen against Charlotte Brontë.

I just read Why Charlotte Brontë Hated Jane Austen by Susan Ostrov Weisser (Daily Beast, 10/19/2013) and, intrigued, looked around and found The Austen vs Brontë Smackdown on the blog Austen Pride (5/16/2009). I also found a long discussion of Austen vs the Brontës on Goodreads, which I skimmed, but did not read.

Apparently Charlotte Brontë had never read Jane Austen until a critic suggested she do so after she’d written Jane Eyre. She studied Pride and Prejudice and, among other things had this to say:

She ruffles her reader by nothing vehement, disturbs him with nothing profound. The passions are perfectly unknown to her: she rejects even a speaking acquaintance with that stormy sisterhood…

Austen Pride makes the point that Austen, who had passed away a year after Charlotte Brontë was born, could not rebut this accusation. In Northanger Abbey, Austen did, however, parody the emotional excesses of gothic tales, of which the Brontës’ books could be included.

Of course, those of us who love Austen would also argue that there is plenty of passion in Austen’s work, although it is brimming beneath the surface. How could you not think so of Persuasion?

Austen Pride concluded that the two authors were writing from different perspectives. Austen was writing about her keen observations of the world in which she lived; Charlotte and her sisters, on the other hand, wrote what was in their imagination.

Me, I was never a huge fan of Jane Eyre. I loved the beginning when she was in the orphanage, but I never believed in the romance between Jane and Rochester. And the coincidences of falling in a ditch and being found by her long-lost cousin didn’t work for me. I also hated how Rochester treated Jane. And don’t get me started on Wuthering Heights. Heathcliff and Cathy have to die to be together? And who would want Heathcliff anyway? I preferred Edgar to Heathcliff.

I think I hold my fictional heroes to very high standards, ones that the Rochester and Heathcliff don’t quite meet. I understand the forces driving the Brontë heroes, but I much prefer heroes I can admire and even fall in love with. Heroes like Austen creates.

I also love all the finely drawn characters in Austen’s books. Their actions and feelings are much more believable to me and that gives me the sense that I’m in a real place, among real people.

But that is me, thinking on the surface of the stories, which is mostly how I read books.

What about you? Do you prefer Austen or the Brontës? Or do you like both for different reasons?

Regency folks in a cloakroom. A larger room than you'd think.

I didn’t mean to talk more about Harriet, Countess Granville’s letters, but this bit really spoke to me. She wrote this while she living in Paris, where her husband was serving as ambassador, complaining to her sister about a certain set of French women she dealt with in her duties as diplomatic hostess.

“…it is the woman made by Herbault, Victorine and Alexandre (dressmakers and a hairdresser), the woman who looks to see if you have six curls or five on the side of your head, the woman who talks, dictates, condescends and sneers at me—quos ego. It is odd that their effect upon me is to crush me with the sense of my inferiority whilst I am absolutely gasping with the sense of my superiority.”

I can so relate to this feeling! I know a few women like that, who always look perfect, who never have a tag sticking out, and who dominate every social situation. Even when I know their appearance of perfection is a sham (their relationships and family life are often a mess), they still somehow get to that nerdy kid inside me, the one their counterparts snubbed in high school. But like Harriet, I know that ultimately I’m happier than they are.

Blanche
This is a classic theme in romance, going back at least as far as Jane Eyre versus Blanche Ingram. It works well, though the mousy but goodhearted governess versus the fashionable schemer has become a very common trope, verging on stereotyping. There’s no reason a heroine couldn’t have style and poise and a warm heart, too. An evil governess might make for an intriguing switch-up, too, come to think of it.

I also think it’s interesting when authors show sympathy for the character who puts so much effort into appearances. For one thing, it is probably exhausting. I suspect taking fashion so seriously would take a lot of the fun out of it! More importantly, why does she feel compelled to appear so powerful, so perfect? The answer could make her a more nuanced villain or even into a heroine, hiding trauma under a glamorous exterior. This is why I listed Melanthe (from For My Lady’s Heart by Laura Kinsale) as one of my favorite heroines in Carolyn’s recent quiz.
What do you think about “perfect” women in romance?  Who are some of the most interesting?

Cover of Perilous Journey by Gail Eastwood
Also, make sure to stop back next Sunday, when I will interview my good friend, the very talented Gail Eastwood, about the current and upcoming ebook reissues of her award-winning Regencies, starting with A Perilous Journey, available now on Nook and Kindle.

Elena

A Certain Latitude by Janet MullanyI’m happy to announce that A Certain Latitude is free for kindle today through next Monday, so now you have no excuse whatsoever to acquire it. Here’s an excerpt from a very nice review:

The book pairs two subjects you wouldn’t think would work together: very kinky explorations along with a serious eye-opening look at the sugar trade on an island loosely based on Antigua about eight or ten years before the slave trade is abolished in England. … You wouldn’t think those subjects would mesh at all, but in a weird way, they do. It’s not as if modern people don’t get up to serious mischief while the problems of the world continue to rage on right in our faces. However, at the heart of it, what holds the whole story together is a remarkable and easy-to-like heroine. All you need to know about her is this quote from early in the book which portrays her character perfectly: “Whenever she wished she had had the moral courage to starve… she was glad she had the good sense not to.”

readerimarriedhim333x500And I’ve also reissued my erotic tribute to Jane Eyre– Reader, I Married Him–which caused some weeping and wailing and gnashing of teeth for its suggestion that Jane could go in uh, different directions. It is finally, finally priced appropriately for a novella. Cool cover!

And remember that reviews are very, very important to other readers, so please post one.

Thanks! Next week we return to our regularly scheduled program.

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